What to Expect When Coming to Study in the Netherlands


Updated on Aug 28 • 5 minute read

If you’ll be studying in the Netherlands, you have a big adventure ahead of you in a place known for its friendly people and interesting way of life. Whether you already travel frequently or this is your first experience with leaving the country, very few things can open your eyes to the world like an international student exchange.

As you’re preparing to relocate abroad for Erasmus, or even the entire duration of your Bachelor’s or Master’s program, you probably already have a long list of questions. How much will it cost? Will the Dutch higher education system differs from that of your own country? What can you expect from the student culture?

In this guide, you’ll learn these answers, along with a variety of other tips and helpful information to make sure you feel prepared for your studies in the Netherlands. So, let’s jump right in and get started!

How much does it cost to study in the Netherlands?

Before you get too deep into your plans, it’s probably best to look at your budget and the type of expenses that you can expect. When you hope to study abroad, Holland may not be as wallet-friendly as its neighbors of Belgium or Germany, but it more than makes up for it in a number of ways, including its universities and their high number of programs taught in English, its beauty and the myriad of things to see and do during your spare time.

Tuition fees

The Netherlands is home to a large number of top-notch institutions of higher learning, including the University of Amsterdam, Erasmus University Rotterdam and Leiden University. The fees for tuition at Dutch universities can differ, but mostly depending on which country you call home.

Students who hail from countries within the EU, the EEA or Switzerland will pay what is known as statutory fees, and may include government subsidies. These tuition fees are considerably less, and can typically start at about €2,060 per year. Additionally, if you have never studied in the Netherlands before, you will only pay half of the tuition for your first year toward your Bachelor’s degree or toward a Master’s (with program restrictions) at public universities.

Students outside of the EU, EEA or Switzerland pay what is called institutional fees. Tuition typically begins at around €7,500 for Bachelor’s programs and can go up to €32,000 for a Master’s degree.

Living costs

The cost of living in the Netherlands as a student can differ depending on the city that you choose, but you can expect basic expenses to fall within the same average pricing. Most students budget between €800 and €1,100 per month.

For student accommodation in the Netherlands, prices can start off at approximately €350, but you can pay more if you are living in a large city or in a popular university neighborhood. However, keep in mind that you can split expenses if you share an apartment with a few classmates.

Food in the Netherlands can be moderately priced, especially if you shop at local markets or grocery stores and trade off cooking responsibilities with your roommates. If you decide to eat out, most universities offer cafeterias or cantines with student-priced meals, as do many eateries in the university areas.

The Dutch public transportation has a great network, utilizing the OV-chipkaart. In fact, public transportation is free for students who receive government subsidies to study in the Netherlands. Yet, most students stick to riding a bicycle, which is by far cheapest and the most popular mode of transportation among Erasmus students and the rest of the country’s residents.

How does the Dutch higher education system work?

Higher education is world-renowned in the Netherlands, which is why it isn’t difficult to understand why so many international students choose it for their studies. Additionally, it offers the largest number of courses taught in English in continental Europe.

The Dutch higher education system works on a binary level, offering students the choice between two primary forms of education:

  • Higher professional education:obtained at research universities
  • Research education: obtained at applied sciences universities

Universities and other institutions also offer programs designed specifically for international students in mind.

Lectures and seminars

The Dutch teaching system is unique, and it's usually one of the main reasons that international students opt to choose this culturally superior destination for their time studying abroad. Rather than sit in a classroom where the students only listen and take notes, things in the Netherlands are done a bit differently.

- Lectures:This part of the learning system involves professors teaching to medium- to large-sized groups of students. While student interaction is encouraged, the professor will guide the process and present the information. - Seminars/ workgroups: This unique aspect involves smaller groups of students. In this environment, the professor is merely a moderator, while the students lead the discussions and educational topics.

The Dutch higher education system also places a big focus on study groups and dividing classes into smaller teams to work on group projects. This encourages a high level of independent thinking, where leaders easily emerge.

Grading system

As with many other things, you may find that the grading system is different than what you are used to in your own country, where an A typically means you’ve excelled, and an F means that you probably need to look for a different study program. However, things work on a 10-point grading system in the Netherlands.

  1. Very Poor
  2. Poor
  3. Very Unsatisfactory
  4. Unsatisfactory
  5. Almost Satisfactory
  6. Satisfactory
  7. More Than Satisfactory
  8. Good
  9. Very Good
  10. Outstanding

Course accreditation

The Dutch higher education system functions on three basic cycles:

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Master’s degree
  • PhD degree

Courses are accredited through the NVAO (Netherlands and Flemish Accreditation Organisation), and it recognizes all of the degrees that are issued throughout Belgium and the Netherlands. All courses are checked every six years for accuracy and assurance, as well as for their relevance in real-world environments.

What is the student culture like in Holland?

The Netherlands is one of the safest countries in Europe, and you’ll sense this in the free-spirited, laid-back way of its people, especially its students and younger demographic.

Things can differ a bit, depending on if you’ll be studying in a larger city like Amsterdam or Rotterdam, or in one of Holland's historic gems like Utrecht or Leiden. However, there are a few things that you’ll experience in whichever city you choose.

Student Associations

It’s no doubt that your first few weeks in the Netherlands will be a little hectic. There will be so much going on that you may find it somewhat difficult to navigate your way through it all. This is where student associations step in.

To help students acclimate to their surroundings, associations will set up introduction days or weeks, where you can learn about what they have to offer, get a tour around the university and a learn a number of things that will come in handy during your time there. Additionally, many associations have a “buddy system,” where a more seasoned student will be there to answer questions and assist a newer student.

Some of the most popular student associations, who also specialize in assistance for international students, include:

Other organizations are available at each individual university. They will offer a full calendar of events, including networking meetings, educational opportunities and fun-filled parties.


Speaking of parties, you’ll quickly find that a lot of the Dutch student culture revolves around them. The Netherlands is also the world’s second-largest beer importer, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that its inhabitants know how to celebrate at one of its numerous exciting events or festivals.

Even in the smallest cities, you’ll find a thriving nightlife scene, with bars and nightclubs that stay open into the early morning. But you don’t always have to go “out” to have a good time. House parties are popular amongst Dutch students, so there’s almost always one going on somewhere in a dorm or other student accommodation. Be sure to check the boards in public areas at the university to see what’s happening.

During your time studying in the Netherlands, be sure to explore this fascinating country, and learn why it’s the perfect place for international students! Dues to its compact size, it’s easy and convenient to travel from city to city, or to even venture into other European countries like France by ferry. This is likely to be one of the most rewarding times in your life, so know before you go, and enjoy every second!

Welkom in het Nederland!

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